Long lines of terraces and Inca stonework set on a narrow ridge flanked by jagged mountains, Machu Picchu is an iconic site and a must-see on your Peru holiday.
I've wanted to visit Machu Picchu for many years (I should have done the Inca Trail 'proper' 20 years ago!). The first real sight of the scale of Machu Picchu was awe-inspiring and moved me to tears.
No matter how many photos you have seen nothing quite prepares for that first awe-inspiring sight of the ‘lost city of the Incas’. Shrouded in cloud in the early morning, it is among the most famous views in the world. Walking among the ruins reveals another aspect of the citadel as you imagine day to day lives of its inhabitants in its heyday.
- Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or take the train? The Inca Trail remains a popular option but isn’t for everyone. The four-day trek covers 42km and you camp in tents overnight. There are ascents and descents as you follow an ancient route through forests and across mountain passes and a well-deserved sense of achievement at journey’s end. There are alternative trekking routes, some staying in luxury lodges, and there is also a day trek.
If that’s too energetic you can travel from Cusco or the Sacred Valley by train, opting for the Hiram Bingham service if you want a touch of luxury. Then from Machu Picchu Pueblo (aka Aguas Calientes) buses ferry you up the last 20 minutes of zig-zag road to the mountaintop location of the ruined citadel.
- Machu Picchu Citadel: Once you’ve had your fill of the views and taken your photos of the ruins in their stunning location, you can descend into the city for a guided tour. You visit the Sacred Plaza and its temples including the Temple of the Condor, see royal lodgings and houses and warehouses, walk along the terraces, see aqueducts and baths. It’s an eye-opening experience. You have time to explore at your own pace, admire the skilled stonework, take in the view from Funerary Rock Hut and soak up the atmosphere.
- Stay overnight: Machu Picchu Pueblo (previously known as Aguas Calientes) has a choice of hotels where you can relax after your visit, enjoy a good night’s sleep and, best of all, return bright and early for a second visit to Machu Picchu to visit different areas of the site and marvel at the work and sheer effort that went into creating this once great city.